Hong Kong incubator Nest plants flag in Nairobi to tap innovative African entrepreneurs

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 12:34pm

Hong Kong-based venture-capital firm Nest has established an office in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to serve as a launchpad for innovative entrepreneurs in Africa.

“We are the first start-up investment company to create a bridge between Hong Kong and London, and we’ve extended that now to Africa,” Nest chief executive Simon Squibb told the South China Morning Post.

“Africa is developing some very interesting tech innovations and start-ups around banking.”

That expansion followed the alliance formed in February by Nest with Level 39, part of British property developer Canary Wharf Group, to speed up the ability of technology start-ups in the financial hubs of Hong Kong and London to go global.

Nest, which also has an office in San Francisco, expects to harness funding resources in Hong Kong and London to support African entrepreneurs, and provide them with access to markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Far more valuable than mere funding, we provide mentorship, advice, space to develop ideas as well as access to shared legal and accounting experts so they can focus on developing their products and growing successful businesses,” Squibb said.

According to venture capital database CB Insights, the African start-up scene has generated plenty of interest in recent years from such investors as New York-based Tiger Global Management, Swedish financier Kinnevik and Naspers, the South African mass media company that has a 34 per cent stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent.

Takealot Online, an online shopping service in South Africa, raised US$100 million in its first round of financing from Tiger Global. The Amazon-like company recently merged its operations with those of rival online retailer Kalahari.com.

Smaller investments made through VC4Africa, an online community of very early stage start-ups and investors, showed that funding raised on this platform last year more than doubled to US$26.9 million, up from US$12 million in 2013, a report by SXSWorld magazine said.

Nest has appointed new managing partner Aaron Fu to run the Nairobi office. He previously worked as regional digital strategy lead for Africa at Standard Chartered Bank, spearheading the bank’s digital sales efforts across the continent.

“We will be working across Africa to find the best ideas and talent,” Fu said.

He pointed out that Nest is looking to find top entrepreneurial talents from other flourishing start-up communities, such as in the port city of Lagos in Nigeria, the Ghanaian capital of Accra and Cape Town in South Africa.

Privately-held Nest is recognised as Hong Kong’s pre-eminent start-up incubator, with investments in about 46 companies as of February.